Tonight, the Boston Bruins will get their first taste of what could become a new original six rivalry when they host the Detroit Red Wings. Under the NHL's four division reorganization, the former Western Conference titan is the latest addition to the strongest division on the east coast.
With all due respect to the Lightening and Panthers, the Wings are the only real challenger to the Bruins throne atop the East. Detroit is skilled, experienced, and well coached. The Bruins are all of those things too, so when the two teams face one another more than twice a year it's going to get interesting.
Tonight's game is only the Bruins second game of the season. It would be unfair to read to much into things too soon. Still there's no denying these are the teams that most would expect to be battling for the division and later, in the playoffs. These are two of the oldest franchises in the NHL. It's time for some new bad blood.
1) How will the Bruins handle the Wings talent up front?
The Bruins are incredibly deep at almost every position. The problem is they don't have players that possess as much talent as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has fully embraced playing the two on the same line. This should make things a little bit easier for Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
It's barely October, but given where these teams could be headed, it couldn't hurt for Julien to reunite the shutdown tandem of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Extreme? Maybe, but for a highly anticipated regular season game, it would make for great television.
2) Which premier goaltender will prevail?
One goalie will win and one will lose. That isn't necessarily a reflection of either Tuukka Rask or Jimmy Howard. A lot of different components factor into a goalies' bottom line, not all of which he can control. Shots on goal, time of possession, the number of penalties, quality of opportunities, the list goes on and on.
Howard has had great regular season success and proceeded to struggle winning games in the playoffs. Rask has won some postseason games, but neither has led their team to a championship as the starter. This game will be each players toughest test of this young season, so look for the two ultra-competitive netminders to be at their best.
3) Will the schedule affect the Red Wings in this game?
For the Red Wings, the move to the Eastern Conference had its perks and pitfalls. On the plus side, Detroit would move out of the deep and competitive Western Conference. The biggest problem now is the travel. The city of Detroit is a ways a way from the majority of other cities and teams in the conference.
Detroit is going to feel those effects when they play the Bruins. The Wings kicked off their regular season in Detroit against the Sabres, and two days later had to travel all the way down to Raleigh to face the Hurricanes.
The Red Wings needed extra time to beat a weaker Hurricanes team, which should benefit the Bruins as they get to face their new divisional opponents on the second night of a very tiring back-to-back. The Red Wings are good, but their weakness is their age coupled with a travel schedule that has already begun to be a factor.
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